MS Playwriting Festival
History Course Offerings
WORLD HISTORY: FRENCH REVOLUTION TO THE PRESENT (9th Grade)
This course covers the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Europe is the main actor in the nineteenth century, but with the Europeanization of much of the world in the nineteenth century, our focus becomes more global. Starting with the impact of the Enlightenment on politics and of the Industrial Revolution on economics and society, we study the “isms” that have dominated the modern world. Throughout the year, students work with primary sources to create both analytical and research-based essays.
AMERICAN HISTORY SURVEY (10th Grade)
This course covers American history, from Columbus to the present. Students learn about exploration and colonization, and about the important traditions brought from the old world to the new. The course encompasses the events that have shaped this American republic straight through to where we are today. A basic text is used, along with source documents.
AMERICA SIN YANQUI: LATIN AMERICAN HISTORY
In the common parlance, when we say “America,” we are generally taken to mean the United States, but there are thirty-five other countries in the Americas, as well as the hundreds of nations and tribes of the forty-seven million indigenous Americans. Furthermore, all too often, when we learn about these other countries, we see them through the lens of the United States, instead of considering them on their own merits. In this class, we will attempt to address that. Using a variety of sources including film, music, art and primary texts dating to before the Columbian Exchange up through the present day, we will explore the shared history of Native and Latin America as well as focusing on specific historical events in specific nations including Mexico, Cuba, Haiti, and Chile. Readings will be commensurate with the level of study and may include Miguel LeónPortilla’s The Broken Spears, the Relacíon of Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca, Marifele Pérez-Stable’s The Cuban Revolution, Ernesto “Ché” Guevara’s Motorcycle Diaries, and Eduardo Galeano’s The Open Veins of Latin America.
THE BLACK FREEDOM STRUGGLE: CIVIL WAR TO THE PRESENT
This course will explore the extended history of the Black Freedom Struggle, from the Civil War to the present day. The emphasis will be on race, protest, politics and social change, and the questions we pursue will have no easy answers. Why, for example, did the abolition of slavery result in decades of the most virulent racism in America’s history? Why was America in 1963 still in “default,” to quote Martin Luther King, on its “promissory note” guaranteeing all men “inalienable rights”? What forces gave rise to the civil rights movement and which tactics were effective? Why even in the era of Barack Obama do an unprecedented and disproportionate percentage of black men end up in prison? Are we really “post-racial”?
The course will be organized chronologically and students may be familiar with some topics from the tenth grade U.S. history survey. But make no mistake-black history is not a simple narrative and the issues it raises will force us to confront today’s most vexing urban problems. Be prepared to read, debate, and write about controversial ideas, and to engage in a substantial independent research project with an experiential component. You should expect, too, to be both unsettled and inspired.
We will read several historians and examine their heated debates about how to tell these stories, alongside selections from W.E.B. Du Bois, Alain Locke, Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, Ella Baker, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Barack Obama.
COMMUNISM AND ITS APPLICATION
This course examines the theory of communism and the political, social, economic, and cultural impact of its various applications. To this end, we will spend the first several weeks of the year reading communist theory (from a variety of sources) to gain a strong understanding of its main ideas and objectives. We will then look at four models in which communist ideology was applied: the Soviet Union, People’s Republic of China, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and the Republic of Cuba.
For each model, we will thoroughly explore the historical context of each communist revolution (if you choose to call it a revolution), the major writings associated with the leaders of each communist movement (including Vladimir Lenin, Mao Tse-Tung, Kim Il-Sung, Fidel Castro, and Che Guevara). We will then assess the impact that the communist system had on each country’s infrastructure, society, and culture. The course will include several research papers in which students fully explore a communist movement/revolution in a country that we did not study together. We will read a variety of primary and secondary sources, and watch both documentary and feature films in our exploration of communism.
The history of Europe from the fall of Rome to the debt crisis of 2008-2013. Dark Ages, Early Middle Ages, High Middle Ages, Renaissance, Reformation, Age of Reason and Absolutism, Age of Enlightenment, Political Revolutions, early Industrial Revolution, 2nd Industrial Revolution, Liberalism, Socialism, Imperialism, World Wars One and Two with their Reactionary and Fascist sequels, Cold War and Decolonization, European recovery and European Union. We’ll try to use a textbook of the old school, supplementing it with details, illustrations, and further readings drawn from the web, and we will write essays on the political “-isms” of the era, as well as on economics, and the arts and sciences.
EXPLORING AMERICA THROUGH ITS ART
This course will seek to understand the history of the United States through the art it produced. This art includes paintings, drawings, engravings, cartoons, posters, architecture, film – you name it. Using both a chronological and a thematic approach, we will grapple with how America’s visual art represented our formation of a national identity, how Americans have presented the ‘other’ (such as Native Americans) in art, and we will trace such American social movements as Civil Rights, Feminism, and Gay Rights through the visual expressions of their struggles. In addition to fine art, we will also look at America’s material culture—furniture, for example—and sometimes dabble in literature and music to flesh out the picture. The course will start in 1492 but will concentrate on the twentieth century since, if we are frank, post-war American art is much more fun to look at. Students will be expected to write two research papers and give many presentations on individual artworks. In addition, students may be asked to visit museums in their free time.
THE HISTORY OF SCIENCE AND ITS CONSEQUENCES IN WORLD CULTURES
(Please see Interdisciplinary Studies)
NEW YORK CITY HISTORY
New York City History is designed to provide a broad historical overview of our city. The course will examine the entire history of New York City from the Dutch colonial period (1625-1664), through the English period (1664-1783), and up to the present. The history of the city will be repeated six times throughout the year, each time from a different key perspective: economic, spatial, immigration and demography, religion, politics, and the arts (including architecture and popular culture). Field trips, walking tours, and interviews will be arranged. A research paper will be required. History books, various maps and charts, novels, short stories, memoirs, archival newspaper articles, and collections of photographs will comprise the reading.
Books to read include: Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898, Edwin G. Burrows & Mike Wallace; The Power Broker: The Story of Robert Moses, Robert A. Caro; The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs; Plunkitt of Tammany Hall, William G. Riordan, ed; The Historical Atlas of New York City, Eric Homberger; How the Other Half Lives, Jacob Riis.
This course will examine the political, economic, social, cultural, and intellectual history of the United States and the world during the years since the end of World War II.
For the first semester, Felicia Kang will teach the course and focus on the global Cold War. The objective of this part of the course will be to gain a nuanced understanding of the ideological, social, economic and cultural influences on the new geo-political landscape after 1945. Topics will include an examination of communist theory, the communist revolution in China, Korea – the war and its divergent states, the Soviet Union, Germany and the new political climate in Eastern Europe, Vietnam, and Cuba.
For the second half of the year, Stephanie Schragger will teach the course and focus on the United States after the war. Topics covered will include political milestones such as Watergate, the Clinton administration, and the election of 2000, social developments such as suburbanization, the Civil Rights Movement, the New Left, feminism/women’s rights, and the rise of the New Right/neo-conservatism; economic issues such as the War on Poverty and Reagonomics; cultural and intellectual trends such as the counterculture, the “me” generation, and other relevant topics through the present day. The course will use both primary and secondary sources, such as Promises to Keep: The United States Since 1945 (Boyer), Major Problems in American History Since 1945 (Griffith), and The Age of Reagan (Wilentz). In addition, the course includes films and documentaries that relate to this time period, including Dr. Strangelove, All the President’s Men, and The Atomic Cafe. There is also a substantial independent research component, and students will complete several research projects throughout the year.
SCHOOL AND SOCIETY: THE HISTORY OF AMERICAN EDUCATION
What are schools for? Why do we place children in these institutions for roughly half the year? Are public schools vehicles for American ideals of democratic life and equal opportunity, or are they ideological tools of the state? Are private schools anathema to democratic values, or natural outgrowths of the American ethos of individual liberty and choice? What is the goal of university education? Should everyone attend college? How are schools products of the society we live in, and how is our society a product of our schools? What are the physical and moral features of a “good” school? Do we need school at all?
This history course traces the many, and often surprising, ways that Americans have answered these and other questions over the past two hundred years. From the Common School crusade of the mid-nineteenth century and the Progressive era “educational science,” to the Mississippi Freedom Schools of the 1960s and more recent battles over charters and testing, this class uses the school as a lens for exploring the ongoing national conversation about what defines the good society and how citizens should go about building it.
This is a serious reading course, with weekly writing assignments, a strong research component, and multiple larger essays. Readings will include scholarly works (e.g., Carl Kaestle’s Pillars of the Republic and David Tyack’s Seeking Common Ground: Public Schools in a Diverse Society); various writings in the philosophy of education (e.g., John Locke’s Some Thoughts Concerning Education, John Dewey’s The School and Society); and the material culture of school (e.g., photographs of schoolhouses, textbooks, and other artifacts).
WARFARE, REBELLION, AND NATIONALISM IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY
In this class, we will examine the era from the final overthrow of Napoleon to the eve of World War One. While we will examine many events, we will focus on three major conflicts of the mid-nineteenth century: the Crimean War, the Taiping Rebellion and the American Civil War. These will serve as our main units for understanding how warfare, rebellion, and nationalism shaped this era, caused the re-shifting of traditional alliances, shook old empires and foiled the (somewhat) successful attempt of the Congress of Vienna to keep Europe from plunging back into world war. Our three main texts for the class will be The Crimean War by Orlando Figes, Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom by Stephen Platt and Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson but expect lots of other readings from such sources as Tolstoy, Whitman, Shelby Foote and the newspapers of the times. Several papers will be assigned throughout the year.
VARIETIES OF MONOTHEISM IN ANTIQUITY
Is one God better than many gods? Are there social, political, and legal consequences of monotheism in different periods? This course will examine the historical context and evidence for monotheistic and quasimonotheistic religions of the ancient world. In addition to covering the so-called “Abrahamic” religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, we will look to the Atonism of eighteenth-dynasty Egypt, history’s first recorded monotheism, as well as ancient Hinduism, Stoicism, and the neo-Platonic monotheism of the later Roman Empire. The class will focus on close readings of ancient religious texts. In the case of the Hebrew Bible, we will focus mainly on the historical books such as Judges, Kings, and Chronicles. The first semester will also be heavily tilted toward consideration of archaeological evidence. By the end of the course, students should be able to identify Yahweh’s consort, fully explain the doctrine of the Trinity, and directly apprehend the Forms.
THE WORLD OF THE VIKINGS
Cattle die, kinsmen die,
The self must also die;
But glory never dies,
For the man who is able to achieve it.
This course will survey the European, Atlantic, and Near Eastern world from the middle of the eighth to the middle of the twelfth centuries-the time of the Vikings. We will examine the mythology, culture, history, religion and literature of medieval Scandinavia, and examine the impact of Viking raids and settlement on the world from Constantinople to North America. A main component of the course will be the words of the Vikings themselves, in the form of the extraordinary Icelandic Sagas. These semi-historical epic accounts were composed in Iceland in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and tell stories that range from the mythological to the verifiably historical. Students will encounter several examples of this unique literary form, as well as runic inscriptions, poetry, monastic chronicles, archaeological reports, and modern history texts. Reading will be daily, papers will be frequent, and there will be a research component to the course.
INDEPENDENT RESEARCH IN HISTORY
(The Department) (1x per week)
The Independent Research in History program enables students to explore a historical topic in depth over the course of the school year. Working with a mentor from the department, students will identify the significant historical questions raised by their chosen topic, and pursue them by employing various research techniques and using of a variety of sources and documents. Students will meet one period per week as a class, and each student will meet with his or her individual mentor once per week throughout the year.
Each research project may be the work of up to two students. The expectation is that students will develop their research into a significant formal historical essay to be presented at the end of the school year in a symposium. Papers may be accompanied by a supplementary presentation of research in another medium. Preference will be given to seniors; maximum of 16 students.